I feel like a bit of a fraud talking about depression sometimes. I know I have been depressed on and off several times over the course of my life. I also know that my worst days, if there were some kind of 1-10 scale, my worst days would be a 4 or a 5, better than some folks best days.
Depression is very familiar to me, like an old enemy encountered across the field of battle on many, many occasions, not always fighting for myself, but often for others. In fact my fight with depression these days is mostly trying to help others, my family, friends and loved ones.
Depression is such an evil affliction because it makes you think you can’t get out of it, that it’s your own fault, and makes you want to give up on everything. Another cruel joke – the side effects of antidepressants can be awful – some of the drugs cause weight gain – that can do serious damage to the confidence of an already depressed person.
Thankfully, for me personally, the battle with depression is now very one sided. I’ve challenged and beaten it many times now. It is never easy, but it does get easier. Where once it took years, often now only days or hours.
I was reminded by a Homestay host a couple of nights ago that I didn’t always have it so easy. The lady stated with authority that surely no 12-year old could possibly be depressed.
Stepping back to my own uncomfortable experience as a 12-year old who had recently moved to a different part of the country, being serially bullied by many classmates, it showed me how far removed some people are from the cruel realities of school-going kids.
My own experience of depression at that time was probably relatively mild, but quite long term. I felt sick to the pit of my stomach at the thought of going to school.
It was only at the age of 15 or so that I started to take real steps to address my lack of social skills – as a logical first step, I bought a book on small-talk. That helped me understand the basics of conversation, and helped me realise the true value of sports as a bridge I could use to connect with others.
Today, I think most people in the Cycle Against Suicide peleton would be hard-pressed to identify me as an introvert who used to be hugely lacking in self-confidence, attempting to learn social skills from a book. But it is so.
I’ve never lost my love of books, nor my desire for peace and alone time to recharge my batteries. But I have learned to love the company of others and the energy that can be gained from the right types of social interactions.
I’m also an eternal optimist, particularly when it comes to time-keeping. Tomorrow’s 8.45am start may be difficult 😉
Update: Here’s an amazing letter from my sister, talking about what the Cycle Against Suicide means to her. It’s for her and everyone else who has battled anxiety and depression that we do this.
Update 2: Another amazing message, this time from my good friend Mary. Thank you so much for writing this. These messages mean so much to me, and really help spur me on when I need it at the end of a cold, wet day.